Humidifier Question

December 27, 2017, 8:03 AM · Hi all,
I need to purchase a humidifier for my violin.
I'm looking into this one, which I found through David Burgess' website: Sunbeam Warm Steam Vaporizer, 1388-800.
My question is, do I have to buy a Humidity Controller as well (e.g. WILLHI WH1436H Air Humidity Controller)? Do these two machines work together? Or is simply a humidifier enough?
If you are familiar with these utensils, it would be helpful if you can let me know how they work.
Thank you!

Replies (11)

December 27, 2017, 8:47 AM · The Sunbeam will create humidity, but will run constantly without the controller. With the controller, you can set the humidity to a specific target and the Sunbeam will come on/off as needed.
Edited: December 27, 2017, 12:00 PM · BEWARE: a cold or even hot "stream" vaporizer may emit water vapor that exceeds the room air's dew point (supersaturates). The excess moisture may condense and "rain" or at least wet some surfaces.

It may take a careful spatial arrangement of vaporizer and controller in the room to minimize this problem. The detector probe for this controller is quite long and if you also have a long power cord on the vaporizer you may be able to position things to get satisfactory results.

At least the vaporizer model is very inexpensive so not much loss if you have to try a different model. An evaporative humidifier or "cooler" should not supersaturate the room air with moisture.

On the other hand, if David Burgess recommends it, he is probably right for many climate situations.

December 27, 2017, 1:43 PM · Andrew brings up a good point. Too much humidity can become a problem, particularly on very cold days -- it may condense on the windows. I occasionally (on very cold days) have to run my system at a lower humidity than I'd like to keep the windows from condensing.
Edited: December 27, 2017, 4:30 PM · I live in Michigan about 50 miles from DB so the humidification issues here are similar. I use his setup: an inexpensive bubbling humidifier with an external controller to keep the humidity in one room of my house between 40-60 percent. Yes, I do get window condensation in this really cold weather we are having. But I also get window condensation in all the other rooms of my house. I mop up the excess with a rag each morning to prevent mildew. My violin, stored in the humidified room, seems to be doing okay. Some of the places I play are very dry. You can tell by the way the bow hair tightens up within 15 or 20 minutes of playing. Doesn't seem to be a real problem for the violin, however.
December 27, 2017, 4:43 PM · Window condensation does not mean supersaturation except at the surface of the window which will be much colder in winter than the air in the room.
Edited: December 27, 2017, 6:21 PM · Like Douglas has already said, the Sunbeam steam vaporizer, by itself, will continue to emit steam as long as it's plugged in and doesn't run out of water. It is the controller which allows it to perform much better than much more expensive units.

I have never had even one incident of super-saturation, when a humidifier was used with a separate controller, over about 30 years of testing, but it is not outside the realm of possibility. It also depends on how one defines super-saturation. Is it based on the humidity level in the center of the room, or the relative humidity level close to a cold surface, like a window?

My Sunbeam steam humidifier is happily steaming away right now. The humidity on the other end of the room is about five percent lower at the moment, since we are in an unusually cold and dry period, and since I have the humidity sensor placed within three feet of the steam vaporizer, rather than on the other side of the room.

My cheap humidifier is also jigged up with an automatic water supply and drain system, so I never need to fill it, and can ignore it for months at a time. I'd sell the kit or post the method, but the liability insurance premium for doing so is too high. That's the way things go in lawsuit-happy America.

Edited: December 27, 2017, 9:19 PM · Some safety tips from the Mayo Clinic regarding humidifiers:

Keep it clean: Dirty humidifiers and health problems

Dirty reservoirs and filters in humidifiers can quickly breed bacteria and mold. Dirty humidifiers can be especially problematic for people with asthma and allergies, but even in healthy people humidifiers have the potential to trigger flu-like symptoms or even lung infections when the contaminated mist or steam is released into the air. Steam vaporizers or evaporators may be less likely to release airborne allergens than many cool-mist humidifiers.

**Tips for keeping your humidifier clean

To keep humidifiers free of harmful mold, fungi and bacteria, follow the guidelines recommended by the manufacturer. These tips for portable humidifiers also can help:

Use distilled or demineralized water. Tap water contains minerals that can create deposits inside your humidifier that promote bacterial growth. And, when released into the air, these minerals often appear as white dust on your furniture. You may also breathe in some minerals that are dispersed into the air. Distilled or demineralized water has a much lower mineral content compared with tap water. In addition, use demineralization cartridges or filters if recommended by the manufacturer.

Change humidifier water often. Don't allow film or deposits to develop inside your humidifiers. Empty the tanks, dry the inside surfaces and refill with clean water every day if possible, especially if using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers. Unplug the unit first.

Clean humidifiers every three days. Unplug the humidifier before you clean it. Remove any mineral deposits or film from the tank or other parts of the humidifier with a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution, which is available at pharmacies. Some manufacturers recommend using chlorine bleach or other disinfectants.

Always rinse the tank after cleaning to keep harmful chemicals from becoming airborne — and then inhaled.

Change humidifier filters regularly. If the humidifier has a filter, change it at least as often as the manufacturer recommends — and more often if it's dirty. Also regularly change the filter in your central air conditioning and heating system.

Keep the area around humidifiers dry. If the area around a humidifier becomes damp or wet — including windows, carpeting, drapes or tablecloths — turn the humidifier down or reduce how frequently you use it.

Prepare humidifiers for storage. Drain and clean humidifiers before storing them. And then clean them again when you take them out of storage for use. Throw away all used cartridges, cassettes or filters.

Follow instructions for central humidifiers. If you have a humidifier built into your central heating and cooling system, read the instruction manual or ask your heating and cooling specialist about proper maintenance.

Consider replacing old humidifiers. Over time, humidifiers can build up deposits that are difficult or impossible to remove and encourage growth of bacteria.

Edited: December 28, 2017, 11:29 AM · The list Nate posted covers the main reasons why I use and recommend the Sunbeam steam units, rather than some other style.
Some humidifiers can provide excellent environments for cultivating mold and bacteria, and then releasing them into the air. Even if the evaporative surfaces themselves won't support growth when they are perfectly clean and new, they soon become contaminated with substances from the air passing over or through them, and then they WILL support growth of nasty stuff.

The steam unit I recommend doesn't use evaporative pads or surfaces (sometimes the manufacturers call them "filters"), and doesn't pass room air through the unit to contaminate it, or contaminate the water in the reservoir. It also turns the water into vapor by boiling it, which tends to kill anything that might be in the water, and also results in the moisture released into the air being distilled water, with next-to-no mineral content.

This doesn't mean that they are totally maintenance free, but that they are vastly better than other humidifiers I have tested. The manufacturers cleaning recommendations (which come with the unit) should still be followed.

The major downside is that they only hold about a gallon of water, so they may need to be refilled frequently when the demand for moisture is high. It's a good idea to empty any remaining water, and rinse before refilling, rather than just adding water.

I use tap water in mine, because this style relies on the electrical conductivity of the water to heat it. Distilled water has much lower conductivity, and if it used, the humidifier may emit little or no steam. If super-pure demineralized water is chosen or is all that's available, a little salt can be added to make it work better.

I don't sell the Sunbeam 1388-800 vaporizer, nor to I make any money off it, so my recommendation has nothing to do with that.

Checking just now, Walmart has these available on line for $9.88. Ridiculously cheap!

December 28, 2017, 9:14 AM · Thank you to everyone's helpful and informative responses!
I now feel like I am more familiar with how a humidifier works and I know what I can expect from it.
Edited: December 28, 2017, 3:48 PM · In fact with David's type of humidifier, if your water has naturally low mineral content you may need to add, for example, a little baking soda. But only once. I agree with David's assessment of benefits and risks for that type of device. Still, everything can stand a cleaning once in a while. Even a violin...
Edited: December 28, 2017, 1:54 PM · Note:
Just noticed that Walmart also has the controller available online (not in stores) for $32.99 currently, with free shipping. That's a lot less than I can buy them for wholesale, unless I purchase huge quantities. So you can get the whole setup for around 45 dollars.

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